Hundreds of Libyans have given up their weapons after the military requested they hand them over. They converged on main squares in Benghazi and Tripoli, where they handed over weapons like rocket launchers and even drove in armored personnel carriers, tanks, and vehicles with mounted anti-aircraft guns.
The call was made by the Libyan chiefs of staff and was promoted on a private TV station in August, reports Yahoo! News. While initially unpopular, it likely gained traction after the attack against the US consulate on September 11.
The attack was followed by an uproar against armed militias that forced at least two to disband last weekend. Since then, the government has also called on all militias to either disband or join a command center that coordinates with the army and militias.
The government has relied on militias for security during the turmoil that followed last year’s overthrow and killing of Moammar Gadhafi. Army Col. Omran al-Warfali stated of the turnout:
“Hundreds of citizens came since the early hours of this morning to handover their weapons from all segments of society, men and youth, women, and even children came to hand over bullets they found it in the streets.”
The Chicago Tribune notes that women and children looked on as men stood in line to turn over their weapons. Tripoli resident Mohammed Salama stood in line to hand over his rifle, stating:
“We want our country to be safe and secure… We don’t want to see weapons anymore. We want to live our lives. The time of war is over.”
Libya’s new government had previously been struggling to impose authority on a country rife with weapons. But since the September 11 attack on the US Consulate, the Libyan government has both vowed to dissolve rogue militias and offering public backing to many of the most powerful armed groups in a plan to build stronger security forces that are government-operated.